Album Review: Snow Patrol, “Eyes Open” (2006)

Eyes Open is the fourth album released by Snow Patrol, though I hadn’t heard of them or their music until last year. The Northern Ireland indie-rock band (Gary Lightbody, Paul Wilson, Jonny Quinn, Nathan Connolly,and Tom Simpson) has been making music since 1994, but didn’t find mainstream success until their first American single, Chasing Cars was heard on the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy last May. Since then, the single and the band have found major success in the States, as well as world wide.

I decided after hearing Chasing Cars all summer (and playing it non-stop) that I should go out and purchase Eyes Open. The album is a collection of soothing indie-rock, reminiscent of U2 (The album’s producer, Garret “Jacknife” Lee is also known for producing U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb) and Coldplay. Though there are quite a few great songs on the album, most of them provide nothing more than background music, and on a disc of eleven songs, it’s hard for me to pick more than a couple of favorites.

The album opens with a nice guitar riff that leads into You’re All I Have. The song is an upbeat and breezy track, with a rock-driven melody and a catchy refrain and chorus (“Just give me a chance to hold on/Give me a chance to hold on…/It’s so clear now that you are all that I have/I have no fear now ’cause you are all that I have”) that provides the perfect opener to the album. Hands Open follows with another guitar-heavy melody and nice vocals from lead singer (and the band’s sole songwriter), Lightbody. The lyrics about trying to make a relationship work aren’t anything too exciting, however the band gets major points from me from mentioning my new favorite, Sufjan Stevens during the second verse (“Put Sufjan Stevens on/and we’ll play your favorite song/”Chicago” bursts to life and your/sweet smile remembers you”).

The aforementioned lead single starts next with soft and inviting opening chords. Lightbody sounds earnest as he begs his love to forget about the rest of the world and focus on their relationship (” If I lay here/If I just lay here/Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”). The catchy melody and chorus work wonderfully together, and the quirky, yet romantic lyrics (“Let’s waste time/Chasing cars/Around our heads/I need your grace/To remind me/To find my own”) make the song an obvious hit that will always remind me of last summer.

The album continues in a vein of excellence with Shut Your Eyes, a Coldplay-esque track with a mix of acoustic guitar and electronic instrumentation. The opening verse does create a faraway mood (“Shut your eyes and think of somewhere/Somewhere cold and caked in snow/By the fire we break the quiet /Learn to wear each other well”) despite the subdued melody; however, the tempo picks up during the chorus, and the sound of the band chanting the last line of the song several times also works well. Make This Go On Forever begins with Lightbody’s vocals and a few bare piano chords, before picking up in both instrumentation and tempo by the chorus. Though the song is a bit heavy and depressing lyrically (“And I don’t know where to look/My words just break and melt/Please just save me from this darkness”), the combination of Lightbody’s and a choir of female voices give the song a powerful feeling and make it one of my favorites.

Set The Fire To The Third Bar is a collaboration with Martha Wainwright (singer and sister of Rufus Wainwright) that everyone either seems to love or hate. Personally, I love this song. Wainwright has a very interesting voice; it’s strong and yet, almost girlish, at the same time and provides a wonderful contrast to Lightbody’s tenor vocals. The sound is just as unique, with piano, electric guitar and other electric effects used together to create an odd, but satisfying melody. The lyrics are once again notable (“I’m miles from where you are/I lay down on the cold ground/I, I pray that something picks me up/And sets me down in your warm arms”) and I think this track is one of the album’s standouts.

Snow Patrol Band

Of course, the album has its missteps. It’s Beginning To Get Me starts off with excitement, but dwindles down to a dull track that provides nothing more than good background music. The beginning of You Could Be Happy sounds like a lullaby, and then fades into vocals and piano. Despite not being too interesting lyrically (“Is it too late to remind you how we were/But not our last days of silence, screaming, blur/Most of what I remember makes me sure/I should have stopped you from walking out the door/You could be happy, I hope you are/You made me happier than I’d been by far”), it doesn’t go anywhere musically, and sounds quite similar to some of the other songs on the album, which makes it quite a forgettable track. Likewise with Headlights On Dark Roads which sounds exactly the same as Hands Open. Even though I love the lyrics in the first verse (“For once I want to be the car crash/Not always just the traffic jam/Hit me hard enough to wake me/And lead me wild to your dark roads”) the fact that the song sounds so similar to the ones before it annoys me.

The album ends on a dull note with Open Your Eyes and The Finish Line. The first of the two is a simple song about trying to convince someone to see you in a different light, and though Lightbody’s vocals sound stronger and clearer than in any of the other songs, the track lacks anything to make it truly worth listening to. The last song begins quietly, with what sounds like wind chimes and a choir softly chanting. The song has a very relaxed feeling to it, that actually works well, but isn’t the best end to an already lethargic album.

Eyes Open is a nice album, especially for the five or six songs that stand out on it. Snow Patrol is certainly a talented band and I’ll be looking for some of their work in the future.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. You’re All I Have
2. Hands Open
3. Chasing Cars
4. Shut Your Eyes
5. It’s Beginning To Get To Me
6. You Could Be Happy
7. Make This Go On Forever
8. Set The Fire To The Third Bar – (featuring Martha Wainwright)
9. Headlights On Dark Roads
10. Open Your Eyes
11. The Finish Line

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GemKqzILV4w]
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